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History of the SantaCaliGon Festival

The first SantaCaliGon Days Festival was held in 1940 to celebrate the unique heritage of the City of Independence as the starting point of the Santa Fe, California, and Oregon Trails. A second celebration was held after World War II in 1947. The Festival was not held again until 1973.

The festival, then called Three Trails Days, featured a beard and mustache contest, the Miss Independence pageant and a pioneer costume contest. In 1974 the festival was renamed Santa-Cali-Gon Days, a name originally penned by Velma Katschkowsky in a 1940 contest to name the festival. In 47 years the Festival has evolved into one of the nations premier festivals, drawing more than 300,000 people.

To the right is a 1947 home movie of SantaCaliGon taken by Borden Sudbrock, who lived at 612 N. River in Independence. Sudbrock was an amateur photographer and took movies of his family and the neighborhood.
“He was smitten by the fun of taking early ‘movies,’ and often carried the camera around, waiting the next inspiration,” wrote Sudbrock’s nephew Paul Nagel, who grew up in Independence and was a distinguished American historian.
Nagel, who died in 2011, gave the home movies to Brent Schondelmeyer a friend and local historian. Several efforts to get the brittle 8mm film transferred to digital medium proved fruitless until documentary filmmaker Jefferson Lujin got the film safely transferred.